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Pets ‘may reduce childhood allergies and obesity’
Babies from families with pets were found to have higher levels of two microbes.
Study finds higher levels of two microbes in babies exposed to pets

Early exposure to pets could make children less prone to allergies and obesity, scientists have said as a new study revealed babies from families with pets have higher levels of two important microbes.

A team from the University of Alberta tested faecal samples from infants, finding exposure to pets during pregnancy or the first three months after birth increases the abundance of two bacteria - Ruminococcus and Oscillospira - that are linked with reduced childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

Commenting on the latest findings, which are published in Microbiome, lead researcher Anita Kozyrskyj said: “The abundance of these two bacteria were increased twofold when there was a pet in the house”.

Researchers also found that the immunity-boosting exchange occurred even in three scenarios known for reducing immunity - C-section, antibiotics during birth and lack of breast feeding.

Furthermore, their research suggests the presence of pets in the house lowered the risk of vaginal GBS (group B strep), which causes pneumonia in newborns, being transmitted during birth.

The work builds on two decades of research showing children who grow up with dogs have lower rates of asthma. The theory is that early exposure to dirt and bacteria, for example in a dog’s fur or on paws, can build early immunity.

Kozyrskyj said it is too early to say how the latest findings will lead, but it is “not that far-fetched” that a supplement of these microbiomes could be created.

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New app to improve street dog welfare

News Story 1
 A new free app will support vital work in clinics caring for stray dogs around the world, experts say. Created by the University of Edinburgh, the tool allows vets to track the wellbeing of dogs going through catch-neuter-return schemes, which are common in countries with large numbers of strays.

Vets say the welfare of individual dogs can be overlooked during the process of capture, transport or surgery. The app, piloted across Asia and Africa, helps staff to monitor welfare, spot signs of distress and develop strategies to improve care. It was launched at BSAVA Congress on Friday 6 April.  

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Farm to fork traceability championed in new service

Defra has created a new information service to offer farm to fork traceability when the UK leaves the EU. The Livestock Information Service, which is set to be operational from 2019, will identify and track animal movements via electronic IDs, meaning the industry and government are better placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food. NFU President Minette Batters, among others, has helped lead the way on this, showing how it will drive a progressive and vibrant livestock industry once we leave the EU.”